Embracing two great continents, Istanbul fuses the allure of Asia with the beauty and romance of Europe. It was that exotic blend of East and West that lured me to the former Byzantine capital. Timeless and tireless, Istanbul is a mysterious city ready to be discovered.
Apart from visiting the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and submiting to the traditional Turkish hammam, I particularly adored immersing myself in the colours, scents and sounds of the colourful bazaars.
Thanks to its location, Istanbul has been one of the most active centers of trade in the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. It is fascinating to know that commercial products such as silk fabrics, jewels, spices and carperts coming from the exotic East and the Arabian peninsula would be gathered in Istanbul on their way to Europe.
Winding through bazaars is a wonderful walk through history and the ideal way to recapture the enchanting atmosphere of old Istanbul.
THE GRAND BAZAAR
With its over 3000 shops, 61 streets, 17 inns, 22 entrances and covering an area of approximately 31 thousand square meters, the Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı in Turkish) is one of the oldest and biggest covered markets in the world.
Built in the 15th century, this ancient labyrinth is a city within a city.
Home accessories, unique hookahs, Nazar amulets, mosaic lamps, chandeliers, cashmere shawls, arabesque embroidered pillows, handwoven kilim cushion covers, handmade ceramic bowls, vintage Turkish hancrafts…The Grand Bazaar is definitely an exotic cave of treasures.
After exploring its labyrinthine lanes and hidden caravanserais, I loved sitting in one of the cafes sipping a glass of fresh Turkish tea as crowds passed by.
Open daily between 09:00-19.00 except on Sundays and October 29th.
THE EGYPTIAN BAZAAR
A quick five-minute walk from the Grand Bazaar lies the Egyptian bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı) redolent with rich spices. Holding 88 vaulted rooms, the “L” shape building was built in 1660 in order to help finance the New Mosque’s construction and its maintenance.
With all the exoticism of the East, the Egyptian Bazaar is still considered the center for spice trade in Istanbul. Getting lost amid the stalls was a pure delight. The first thing I missed when I arrived home from Istanbul was the enticing aromas of saffron, mint, cinnamon and thyme filling in the air.
THE ARASTA BAZAAR
Located right in the heart of Sultanahmet’s historical district, the Arasta Bazaar -also known as Sipahi Carsisi– is the only historical open bazaar in Istanbul. With more than 70 shops, this modest bazaar offers a much more laid back atmosphere than the other ones.
There is always something beautiful to discover around every corner in Istanbul. Apart from exploring the city´s world-famous bazaars, I spent hours on end scouring secret shops. Definitely, this vibrant city is a wonderful destination for textile lovers. Wherever you look, you can find bold and beautiful designs as well as old textiles and antiques.
“El Rincón de Fehmi”
During our trip, we had the opportunity to meet Ziya Kilinç, the owner of this elegant and inviting boutique in the heart of historic Old Istanbul. With two more stores in Mexico and Spain, Ziya is a young entrepreneur who offers a delicate collection of jewelry, handbags, home decor, and small furniture.
From silk and patchwork carpets to vintage and classic ones,“El Rincón de Fehmi” has a wide selection of of quality handmade carpets and kilim.
Yerebatan Cad. N5/B- 7/A 34410 Sultanahmet